Need more reasons to convince you how important it is for your child to be bilingual? Here they are.
WORDS NURULHUDA SUHAIMI
Better Problem-Solving Skills
The skill of switching between two languages improves a child’s cognitive flexibility as well. This refers to the brain’s ability to change from thinking about one concept to another or thinking about different ways to solve a problem.
Improved cognitive flexibility has been found to contribute to better problem-solving skills. The ability to think flexibly means that a child is able to look at a problem from a new perspective, and recognise that there might be different ways to solve a particular problem. For instance, if your child is doing his Mathematics homework, he knows that he can use a formula he has learnt to solve an entirely new problem.
Problem-solving skills are not only relevant in an academic setting, but also in real life situations.
A child with good problem-solving skills will be better able to adjust to changes in his environment.
The ability to think of different ways to solve a problem also enhances a child’s creativity. Cognitive flexibility improves a child’s ability to think outside of the box, and to create innovative solutions or strategies when faced with challenging or entirely new situations.
Reduces Cognitive Decline
Bilingualism is not only advantageous during the early years of a child’s development but also has positive long-term effects into adulthood. All of us will naturally experience a decline in our cognitive function as we get older, but research has shown that being bilingual slows down that decline.
According to a 2012 study entitled The Cognitive Benefits of Being Bilingual by Viorica Marian and Anthony Shook of Northwestern University, this effect against cognitive decline from aging in those who are bilingual is attributed to their bilingual ability “keeping their cognitive mechanisms sharp and helping to recruit alternate brain networks to compensate for those that become damaged during aging”.
Studies have also shown that being bilingual might fend off or delay the onset of brain diseases
that speed up this cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Improves Communication Skills
Of course, being able to speak two languages means the child will be able to meet more people who speak in the same tongue. This might not seem like a big issue in Singapore since English is increasingly becoming the dominant tongue among most of its population. Still, speaking two or more languages may allow your child to better communicate with people who are more comfortable speaking in their mother tongue, especially when travelling overseas where English is not the first language.
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